Jordan’s Islamist opposition on Friday denounced the presence of US troops in the kingdom due to deteriorating security in neighboring Syria, urging a rethink of the deployment.
“The government must review its decision to authorize the deployment of foreign troops on Jordanian soil,” the Islamic Action Front, political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed on Wednesday that some 150 US military specialists have been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered a US Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops.
The announcement coincided with a stern warning from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of a conflict spill-over into Jordan.
“We would wish that our Jordanian neighbors realize that… the fire will not stop at our borders, all the world knows Jordan is just as exposed (to the crisis) as Syria,” Assad said, speaking to state television station al-Ikhbariya on the anniversary of his country’s independence from France.
“These personnel will continue to work alongside Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” said Hagel.
The US troops were deployed to Jordan to help secure chemical weapons amid fears they could fall into the hands of Islamist militants fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and prepare for a possible spillover from Syria.
“The Islamic Action Front… categorically refuses the presence of foreign troops in Jordan,” the statement said, stressing that Jordan’s armed forces were capable of defending the nation.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told AFP on Wednesday that the US deployment was “to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria.”
But the army denied this and said in a statement on Thursday: “The 200 US troops have nothing to do with Syria’s situation. They are the first of the groups that will take part of the annual Eager Lion military exercise, in which 15 countries are participating.” “The Jordan Armed Forces have the required capabilities to defend Jordan’s borders, stability and security against any threat,” it added, saying the drill will take place “in the coming weeks.”
Russia on Friday called the deployment of US troops in Jordan an unconstructive step that threatens to expand the conflict. Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said such a move ran counter to internationally-agreed principles for ending the crisis through negotiations. “These are absolutely not the actions that we now need to bring Syria out of its dead end,” Lukashevich told reporters. “These actions exacerbate the Syria crisis, which is now gaining the dimensions of a regional crisis,” the spokesman said.
Russia is viewed as one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s few allies because it vetoed three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against his government.